Seascapes are a sub-category of landscape digital photos and, while some of the techniques are identical, a few apply specifically to capturing spectacular images of any seashore.
One of these identical techniques is particularly important for above-average seascape images and that is to position you and your camera, so there are objects in the foreground. First, these help to provide some perspective and scale in relation to the grand view. Second, the details of foreground objects are visible, which creates a balance with the large expanses of sky, water, beach and land without much detail.
Look for foreground objects, such as rocks, driftwood, piles of seaweed, small dunes, etc. that create a pattern. Find a position from which you can frame this pattern, so it leads the eye into the panorama of the seascape. Another compositional consideration that affects both how you use foreground objects and place the horizon line correctly is the height of the camera. The pattern or eye-leading effect of rocks projecting from the sand in the foreground loses their dynamic quality if you shoot at too low an angle. The rock closest to you is apt to block most of the rocks behind it, disrupting the pattern. You can shoot low, however, with a wide-angle lens when the foreground objects are smaller, such as driftwood or a series of footprint leading into the surf.
Changing your position to the top of a cliff has an equally profound effect on the composition of any seascape. Once again, however, look for foreground objects for these images too. At the right location, at the right time of the year, the top of the cliffs or the top of a rock tower in front of the cliffs could be covered with migrating and nesting birds. Not only does this group provide scale, but also presents a contrasting pattern to the flat plain of the sea, sky and sand.
Two other compositional tips for seascapes can lead to outstanding results. First, photograph the same scene or area at low and high tides. The foreground may look entirely different during low tide, revealing more of the sand and seaside structures, although the background is nearly identical. Second, be prepared to walk into the surf to find angles that are not available as a passive observer. (Think about using a waterproof camera or renting a housing for camera to keep it dry.)
Shutter speed, aperture and ISO sensitivity are the three primary settings on a digital camera that are combined in the right proportion to expose any image correctly. It’s safe to say, however, that shutter speed is the predominant setting when photographing the place where the land and sea meet. Shutter speed is your control point for capturing the constantly moving water. Obviously, if you want to freeze the movement of the sea, then select a faster shutter speed. Although the typical speed is 1/20 of a second and faster, don’t hesitate to experiment. Purposely shoot the same section of moving waves at different shutter speeds just so you can compare them later.
Stopping the motion of the water is what you find in most vacation images or casual photographers’ quick snapshots of the shore. You can easily make the water a more creative element and elevate the interest of your seascape photos by slowing the shutter speed. Again, experiment as a learning opportunity, but you’ll probably discover that at one-half second some blur will start to appear. Select a shutter speed of a few seconds and the water assumes the look of clouds, billowy and with the flowing mike effect.
Tools of the Trade
A graduated neutral density (GND) and neutral density (ND) filters are specific accessories you’ll want on hand to take even more control of your seascape images. A GND filter will help to balance the bright sky and darker foreground, especially during sunrise and sunset. The ND filter is useful when you’ve selected a slow shutter speed, which will allow a large amount of light into the camera and onto the sensor. ND filters are made according to the number of shutter speed stops slower you’re able to expose an image.
Try these compositional, shutter speed and filter techniques the next time you have the opportunity to spend some quality time photographing seascapes and you’re sure to capture some marvelous digital photos.
You’ll learn how to shoot better seascapes and all types of landscapes when you click here.
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